Stop Stealing our Paychecks!
How does it feel to go home without pay for your hard work? Or to get your paycheck and realize you’ve been shorted? …when you need that pay now for food and rent… when you are trying to save for your kids’ education because you want their experience to be a little bit easier than yours. Millions of California and Los Angeles low-wage workers experience wage theft: employers steal an average of 12.5% of low-wage workers’ income every year by paying below the minimum wage, not paying overtime, not providing rest and meal breaks. For 22 years, KIWA’s Worker Empowerment Clinic has assisted workers to file claims with the Labor Commissioner–and they almost never lose their cases. Our clinic is held every Thursday from 10am to 2pm. We accept all walk-in, and can offer services in English, Spanish, and Korean.
In fact, Los Angeles is the nation’s wage-theft capital, with $26 million being stolen from LA low-wage workers alone every week–that’s nearly $1.4 billion a year. Many workers have to come to work but are not allowed to clock in for an hour or more, and required to stay after to clean and close up off the clock. Many are laid off and never get their paycheck at all. However, the vast majority of California workers–statewide only 17%–never collect even one penny of their judgment, after proving before the State of California that their employer did not pay them for their work. And many more feel forced to settle for pennies on the dollar, knowing their hope of recovering their full pay is dismal. In Wisconsin, which has had a wage lien on the books for over a century, over 80% of workers do collect their judgments. California workers also need this tool. Our wage claims system is broken. Unscrupulous employers transfer money or close and re-open the same business under a new name, or “sell the business to their brother” but keep operating the same shop, cheating even more workers of their pay.
We celebrate California’s minimum-wage increase ($9/hr. beginning July 1, 2014 and $10/hr. from Jan. 1, 2016). But what about workers who can’t get the minimum even now? Or get any of their overtime pay? KIWA and over 30 allies statewide who are part of the California Fair Paycheck Coalition believe that one powerful tool to fix this problem is AB 2416, the Wage Theft Recovery Act. Low-wage workers tired of seeing their pay stolen away, honest business owners seeking a level playing field, worker centers, unions, legal-service providers, policy organizations, and academics have joined forces to stop wage theft. It would allow workers to place a temporary hold (lien) on an employer’s property. The presence of the lien would bring bad-apple employers to the table and act as an incentive for them to do what they should have done in the first place: pay workers for the work they have done. Let’s work together to ensure that money workers earn goes to keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table.
To learn more and get involved, contact KIWA or any of the many organizations in the California Fair Paycheck Coalition or the LA Coalition Against Wage Theft.
- Info about the Wage Theft Recovery Act: English Español 한글 Q&A
- NELP & UCLA Labor Center’s report on the collections problem: Hollow Victories
- UCLA Labor Center’s report on wage theft: Wage Theft and Workplace Violations in LA